The Congressional Black Caucus Must Reject Trump's Photo-Op Meetings

The CBC has the challenge of its political lifetime in confronting the Trump rein in the Oval Office.
03/21/2017 12:51 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2017

The instant #45 Trump announced that he would meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, the question was, “meet about what?” The CBC is not the carefully vetted, hand-picked array of former black athletes, rappers, preachers, and conservative Black Republicans that Trump paraded up to Trump Tower and then paraded to the front of the building for the mandatory photo-op shoot. The CBC is not the throng of Black College Presidents and Administrators that Trump met with at the White House and then posed again for the mandatory photo-op. The message to the CBC is, please, no more of these empty, cheap photo-ops that do nothing but burnish Trump’s image as a man who is ready, willing, and anxious to be the president of all the people, and that means meeting with black interest groups. There’s good reason for imploring the CBC to shelve the cameras for its Trump meeting now and in the future.

The CBC is a political horse of a different color. They are staunch Democrats. They have marched in near total lockstep with the party, and Democratic presidents, Obama and Clinton, on health care reform; affirmative action; increased government spending on education, jobs, and social programs; tight reins on Wall Street and the banking industry; opposition to endless proposed GOP tax cuts for the rich; and a massive urban reconstruction program. True, many African-Americans carp and take pot shots at the CBC for being too cozy, or handmaidens to the Democrats. But the hard reality is, carping notwithstanding, black voters are and will continue to be the bedrock of the Democratic Party. They couldn’t break ranks with the party even if they wanted too. The Trump win made it even clearer that the Democrats are still the only political game in town when it comes to giving political voice to their needs and waging any kind of fight-back against Trump.

The CBC is certainly as far removed from Trump’s support base as the sun and the moon.

trump cbcThe CBC has the challenge of its political lifetime in confronting the Trump rein in the Oval Office. It must toss its weight around at every turn to try and blunt or beat back some of the worst initiatives that Trump will put on the table from his draconian budget cuts, the hack away at voting rights, the wild expansion of police power, gutting public education for school choice, and a benign neglect of civil rights protections. Blacks expect no less than that the CBC tell Trump that they are going to fight him on every turn on these issues. They’re politicians and as politicians if they can find any common ground for negotiation on any of his proposals then so be it. However, Trump is not a Bush or Reagan. They were traditional GOP presidents who played within the rules of the negotiating game with Democrats. Trump is anything but. His budget sent the strong message that he’s willing to rip apart the rules of the game to get his way.

Still, Trump has already found out that all his bluster and executive orders mean little if he can’t get at least some Democrats to go along with him on some issues. This means trying to make at least some of its members less pugnacious in hammering him. The two points that even remotely offer any semblance of a negotiating chip between him and the Caucus would be on jobs and how to create more of them in inner-city neighborhoods and his bold declaration that he believes in and wants to promote equal justice under the law. The Caucus must revamp an argument that it repeatedly used with former President Obama and that that’s to do more, spend more, and create more job and skills training programs that target the one group that has chronically suffered more than any other group from poverty and unemployment, and that’s young African-American males.

The Caucus can start by making this along with the devastating impact that scrapping much of Obamacare would have on the black poor priority issues in any meetings and all dealings they have with Trump. Just how many of those there will be in the future is anybody’s guess. The CBC is certainly as far removed from Trump’s support base as the sun and the moon. That separation is not likely to be closed by one meeting. It certainly won’t be closed by turning the meeting into yet another Trump photo-op with Blacks. So please, keep the cameras shuttered for this one.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of In Scalia’s Shadow: The Trump Supreme Court ( Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.

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